The most romantic day of the year is here, and couples all around the world will be putting on their glad-rags ahead of a rose-tinted night of chocolate, flowers and the rest. There’s no shortage of cynicism when it comes to Valentine’s Day in the 21st century however, and the anti-romance lot might be looking for some ammo when it comes to dragging others back down to their curmudgeonly level. There’s more to 14 February than amorous longing, and history is full of events both good and bad that took place on the day of Saint Valentine, who also happens to be the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy.
YouTube Was Launched
It is difficult to imagine in the modern age, but there was once a time when there was no such thing as YouTube. Sharing videos on the internet was difficult, and three PayPal employees decided to do something about it. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim subsequently established YouTube, with its first headquarters located above a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. The website went live on 14 February 14, 2005, and 15 years later more than 400 hours of content is uploaded to the channel every minute. Check out our channel here!
The 20th Soviet Congress Begins
On Valentine’s Day 1956, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union got underway in Moscow. It was always going to be a history-making affair, as it was the first Congress to be held following the death of Joseph Stalin. The Congress came to a dramatic end, with First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev denouncing Stalin and his crimes, accusing the former leader of distorting the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. The speech sent shockwaves around the world.
Mostar Was Liberated
Well, that entirely depends on your ideological bias when it comes to the former Yugoslavia. On 14 February 1945, as the war in Europe was lurching to its end, Yugoslav Partisans liberated the famous Herzegovinian city of Mostar from the fascist Independent State of Croatia. The city went on to flourish in the south Slavic state, only to be ripped apart once more during the Bosnian War of the early ‘90s.
The First Serbian Uprising Kicks Off
Sticking with the lands of the former Yugoslavia, Valentine’s Day 1804 was the day that Djordje Petrović (Karadjorjde) led his revolutionary Serbs into battle against the Ottoman Empire in the First Serbian Uprising, although the numeral there should tell you how well it turned out. The conflict continued for nine and a half years, and ended with Karadjordje in exile and brutal Ottoman reprisals. The Second Uprising proved far more successful.
An Astronomical Trailblazer Is Born
Born in Varna, Bulgaria to a Swiss father and a Czech mother, Fritz Zwicky made his name in the United States of America. He was the first astronomer to put serious thought into the existence of dark matter, dragging the study of theoretical astronomy along with him. The fact that the image above hasn’t made its way onto millions of t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, while Einstein’s tongue is almost as famous as his Theory of Relativity, is tragic (though not as tragic as the next item on our list)….
A Mistaken Bombing
The Allies famously dropped tonnes of carnage onto the unsuspecting civilians of Dresden on Valentine’s Day, but the bombing of Prague on the same day is lesser known. On this day in 1945, US Army Air Forces dropped some 152 tons of violence onto the ordinary people of the Czech capital, killing 701 and injuring well over a thousand. This was bad enough, but the wound was deepened when it was revealed that poor weather meant that the Allies believed they were bombing Dresden. Prague was never a target.
Australia Adopts the Dollar
This article was originally titled ‘6 Unromantic Things that Happened on Valentine’s Day’, and then our Australian-born, Gdansk-based editor Pierre informed us that in 1966 Australians heartlessly dumped the Australian pound (and its constituent 20 schillings or 240 pence) and began their love affair with decimalisation. While we generally don’t support infidelity, choosing metric over imperial is always a noble decision in our book. And yes, despite our best efforts there, we don’t imagine many people will find this leap into monetary efficiency very romantic. To each their own…..